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Get Ready: An interview with Alison Wonderland

If Alison Wonderland can’t get you popping and locking (or twerking), then there’s little hope for you.

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If Alison Wonderland can’t get you popping and locking (or twerking), then there’s little hope for you. A hectic wave of hard-hitting beats and addictive pop fillers, a Wonderland set is an expansive combination that knows no limit. The classically trained Sydney-sider steps far, far away from convention, choosing to incorporate a vast mix of soundscapes (the ultimate genre mutation).

Wonderland’s latest release Get Ready is oozing out of speakers at an alarming rate. Brazen rhythms reverberate your insides; dance is the only answer. I caught up with Alison to compare deep-seeded admirations for David Attenborough, her upcoming tour and favourite Beatles.  

When did you first get into producing and mixing?

You know, it was a few years ago now. I kind of was DJing for myself because I loved it. I never really planned to become a DJ, so when I discovered it I would go to a lot of floor night sounds in Sydney and play some DJ sets around there and it was just for fun and because I loved it. I found it really interesting because if you don’t simplify it too much you can actually treat it like an instrument. That’s what kind of got me really into it. I just really liked learning how to work out different ways to mix- interesting ways – and mixing different genres. To me, that was really fun.

Have you always had a musical background? 

Yeah, I actually was studying to become a cellist before the DJ thing. Somehow, this is where I ended up. I was in Europe studying cello and it was all pretty hardcore. I came back to Sydney and I think I realized that it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to be in classical music. That’s when all this started. 

Do you still play the cello at all?

My chops aren’t what they used to be, but on the record there is a track with me playing cello. I am kind of excited about that. 

Do you sing?

Yeah, I don’t consider myself a singer, but I do sing on all the songs that I wrote on the album. When I started writing this record, I had all of these instrumentals ready and I was sending it out to all these other female singers. In my head, this record was going to be my production and guest vocalist. Unfortunately, at the beginning stages, no one really wanted to sing on the songs, so I was like, ‘alright I wrote them, I might as well sing them with my lyrics and my melody.’ I made sure I wrote it in a range that my voice fit as well (laughs).

What’s the story behind the name ‘Alison Wonderland’?

It’s a bit of an awkward story. That name was chosen because I had 5 minutes to pick a name to get on a poster. In my head, I was like, ‘I’ll just use this for a bit until I decide on a proper name’ and low and behold here we are. Still my name. 

You’ve really taken off; did you expect it to be such a whirlwind?

I actually had been working on this kind of stuff for a long time. For me in my head I don’t really feel like anything has happened quickly. I guess to everyone else it has. I’m still pinching myself because I can’t believe I’m here. Maybe the whirlwind is more that this was never my plan and here I am. In that way, it’s pretty mental.

I saw you at Splendour, I don’t think I’ve been so brilliantly thrashed around in my life. How does it feel standing up there and seeing all of that?

It was good. I was really nervous. I’m not usually nervous when I play, but I ended up doing “Get Ready” live with rapping over it. It was the first time I’ve been able to play original tracks. It’s not just somebody else’s song and you’re not just mixing stuff with other peoples music. It’s something that has come from hard work and blood, sweat and tears. You’re finally playing it out and you get a bit nervous. I almost didn’t really want to look up. I was scared. What if no one was moving and I had cleared that dance floor (laughs). But, not it went really well and I couldn’t stop smiling when I was up there. It was crazy.

We were definitely moving (laughs). 

When I told my friend Jack that I was interviewing you, he went out and bought an Adidas t-shirt for you to sign.

Oh my god!! I’m wearing one right now (laughs)! Tell him that we are twins today. I tend to wear way too much of that brand. They gave me like a stupid amount of t-shirts, but I love Adidas and I can’t really say no. I’ve been wearing their clothes for so long and they finally sent me some stuff and I was like, ‘yes, this is my wardrobe now!’ 

Do you like it on tour or do you prefer recording?

You know, I like a bit of both, but I can go stir crazy either way. I think writing and making music is a cheap therapy session in a weird way, it is good because it does help you have a bit of a release. But, touring’s also good because you’re crazy jumping up and down and going off other people’s energy’s. The one thing when I’m on tour, I really miss my own bed and that’s hard. 

That’s what I miss most when I’m away.

I know right? It’s like, ‘I don’t even know what my bed feels like anymore’.

Tell me about your music making process:

I’m not really sure. It’s a bit of a blur. Sometimes I write with myself, sometimes I write with other people. You’re either sitting there by yourself and you wake up, open your eyes eight hours later and there’s a song and you’re like, ‘ what the hell? When did that happen?’ Or like youre writing with someone and at the end of the day you’re sitting there like, ‘I can’t believe we just made this, how did we even make this? When did this happen?’ It’s a weird process. I think, for me, I just go into this really weird blur land. 

Do you have any pre-show rituals?

Yeah, I like to be by myself actually. I just jump up and down. I get really quiet. That’s my ritual. And I have to be chewing green gum!

Green gum?

Green gum.

What do you do when you’re not making music?

Hang out with my dog. 

What kind of dog do you have?

A small, cute, slightly overweight one. Don’t tell her that, I don’t want to give her an eating disorder. 

If you could pick any artist, dead or alive, to play a show with, who would it be?

George Harrison. He’s my favourite Beatle and I just really love him so much. That means I would get to meet him.

Best live act you’ve ever seen?

David Attenborough. I went last year, I saw him speak not this tour, but the one before. Amazing!

I just saw him this year when he came!

How awesome was he? I just walked out of there feeling happy. Like the world was awesome. I love him. I wish he could read me bedtime stories or direct my life. Either or. 

You’re about to head off on your ‘Get Ready’ tour, are you excited? Anyone cool joining you?

For my Melbourne and Sydney shows I have Willow Beats and LDRU supporting me. I’m sure everyone who is playing this tour is very cool. I pushed really hard to have Willow Beats and LDRU on those shows and so I am really excited about them. 


Alison Wonderland – “Get Ready”

Interviews

Everything Will Be Alright: An interview with Ogikubo Station

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There is great joy in simple chords and simple melodies. It is, after all, the feeling of comfort that these things often bring. Comfort from the day’s burdens, comfort from the issues that disappoint us, comfort when the sunsets bring us joy. Ogikubo Station, the music project of Maura Weaver (of Ohio punks Mixtapes) and Mike Park (of Asian Man Records), is that kind of comfort. It is music that makes us think of the week we’ve just had, music that makes us want to do better in our every day, and music that makes us laugh, cry, and sing-a-long.

Fresh off the release of a new 7” EP Okinawan Love Songs, we chat to Maura and Mike about the new songs, making music from distances, and how Ogikubo Station came to be. The chat was a reminder that music can be the result of many things and many reasons. Some simple, some more complicated. It was also a reminder that if we’ve got the music, then maybe, just maybe, everything will be alright in the end.

You released your full length We Can Pretend Like last year- was there a catalyst that sparked getting back into the writing and recording again so quickly?

Maura: I think Mike just called me and said do you want to come out to California and do some songwriting, and then while I was out there he booked two days in the studio and said “Guess what? We’re gonna record a 7 inch.”

Mike: Is that what happened? Haha. I can’t remember. I know we had “Would I Break My Heart Enough For You” written and we were playing it live, so I thought “let’s just add a couple more songs and release a fun 7 inch.”

Did you write these songs the same way you’ve written in the past; from a distance?

Mike: Not this time. Since it was only a few songs we just rehearsed for a day and then recorded.

Does that process ever get easier, being quite far apart?

Maura: Not really. I prefer being able to collaborate in person and I believe that’s the plan for the next record. We started writing 4 new songs aside from what’s on this 7 inch to go towards the next Ogikubo full length.

Mike: Yeah, it’s not the best case scenario, but I’ve been doing with a lot of different projects over the years. Sending mixes and vocal parts and asking various friends to guest on records, so it’s not that bad actually.

Okinawan Love Songs

How was having Dan (Andriano) play bass on this EP? Will you be working with him again in the future?

Mike: I’ve known Dan since he was a teenager, so I just called him and said “Dan, I’m gonna send you a couple of songs for you to play bass on” and he was like “okay”. He has his own home studio and he’s kind of a gear head, so I knew it would be easy for him to do. I’d love to do more stuff with him, but I guess we’ll see.

Maura: Heck yes! I’ve been an Alkaline Trio fan since I was 14, so this is all kind of geeking out excitement for me.

For those who are new to Ogikubo Station – tell us how you ended up collaborating together?

Mike: Maura, you want to tell it?

Maura: Sure. So I was visiting the San Francisco/Oakland area where my sister lives and we were hanging out with my friend Danielle Bailey who is also friends with Mike. Danny had posted some photos of us hanging and Mike called Danny and said: “ask Maura if she would record a song with me”. So we drove to San Jose and we recorded a song called “Weak Souls Walk Around Here” and that was it. Just a one-time thing.

Mike: And at that time I believe I told Maura I’d like to put out her solo album and so for the next 2 years I would bug her every couple months to see how it was going and she would say “oh, I’m still working on it”. And then I finally said “hey, let’s start a project together” and thus Ogikubo Station was born.

How many bands are you in now Mike?

Mike: Kitty Kat Fan Club, Ogikubo Station, Bruce Lee Band …are the only ones that play, but I’m working on a couple of new projects. Always doing music.

Maura, how different has it been with Ogikubo Station than say, writing and recording with Mixtapes? Do the different processes give you new ways to write and approach songwriting?

Maura: I guess the biggest difference is the distance factor and that Ogikubo is not a full-time band. Mixtapes was my first real band and it was at a time in my life when everything was a first. First tour, first record, first van, the first van breaking down. I was still in my teens with Mixtapes and we all lived in Cincinnati. So it’s very different with Ogikubo. It’s hard to explain fully, but both bands have definitely been influential in different ways. But the basic idea of writing a melody over a strummed guitar chord is the same no matter the situation.

I love the TMBG cover on the new EP, and the fact that you chose to keep it lo-fi—what are some of the other bands you say would have directly led to the music and songwriting of Ogikubo Station?

Mike: I guess I’ve been listening to a lot of 80’s bands as of late and just kind of falling in love again with bands like Hoodoo Gurus, the Replacements, REM, and then newer bands like ALVVAYS, PUP, and Laura Stevenson. I’m always just looking for a good melody and some lyrics that aren’t filler bullshit.

Maura: I listen to so much music. From Kate Bush, TMBG, Desmond Dekker, Operation Ivy, to Beyonce and Taylor Swift. It’s hard to say what influences Ogikubo Station, but those are some bands I’ve been listening to lately.

Mike, I know on Twitter recently you’ve expressed your frustration and anger at a lot of the political things that are happening in the US (hopefully that’s not the cause of those grey hairs!) – but as songwriters, do you feel that it’s more important than ever to provide listeners with fuel to fight for equality and kindness, or do you feel that its just as important to provide an escape through music?

Mike: I’ve always felt music is political even when you aren’t trying to make it political. The sounds fuel the soul, creates the body to move and puts you in moods that you may not even realise are happening. Music has been my solace when it comes to expression and emotion. An outlet to get my ideas across in an artistic and productive manner. I don’t feel it’s imperative to be overtly political. I try not to shove politics down your throat, but if something comes to mind and I write about it and it happens to be classified as political, so be it.

Maura, you did the artwork for the new EP, an illustration of your Okinawan grandmother. The art is beautiful, can you tell us a little bit about your art and how you came into illustrating?

Maura: I’ve always enjoyed illustrating and painting. Creating art: With a guitar or a brush or a pen/ pencil. I wanted to draw my grandmother and give it to her as a present.  When Mike saw the drawing he asked if we could use it for the 7-inch cover. It wasn’t meant to be the cover, but after mike brought it up I said of course.

What are some of the things you’re looking forward to on this UK tour? You guys are going all over England, and then to Wales, and then Scotland. 

Mike: Sadly I’m not going on the tour this time due to some hearing damage I have sustained, but I’m still going to Brighton for a wedding, so I will be there for 3 days. And I’ll try to do every stereotypical British thing. TEA/MILK/FISH/CHIPS/MUSHY PEAS.

Maura: Getting to travel with my best friend Megan is the most exciting part of this UK tour. She’s never been before and that makes it that much more special being able to share this experience together. We are both Vegan/Vegetarian and one of our favorite things to do is eat, so we’ll checking out the different vegan spots in every city. And just meeting new friends, seeing old friends, and Edinburgh. I can’t wait to go to Edinburgh.

Is there a new full length on the horizon?

Mike: I’d like to work on one next year. I’m tapped out for this year. I’m gonna work on some new Bruce Lee Band stuff next and then I have a couple of other collaborations, but hopefully sometime next year we can start the process for the next full length.

Maura: That sounds good to me. It will give me a chance to keep writing songs.

Ogikubo Station’s new 7″ EP Okinawan Love Songs is out June 14th on Asian Man Records. Find out more about Ogikubo Station and their upcoming tour dates on their Facebook page.

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